Hey, Wait A Minute....

What About Dark Water After Dark
By: John H. Myhre, 2001


Spending an evening surrounded by the serenity and natural beauty of a Northwoods flowage (reservoir) can be a unique experience, especially when you throw in a little Musky action. You might even think it can't get much better than that, however, sometimes it can, and this was one of those times. Not only was it a beautiful evening with little wind and a clear sky, but I was anticipating action from big fish.

Over the past few evenings I had been working a pattern that produced action from several Musky from 20 to 25 pounds. As on most evenings, there were a number of other fishing boats. They were working some of the lake's well-known Musky spots. After all, any flowage Musky hunter worth his salt knows that this is one of the best times to be on the water for Musky action, especially on those sunny days. Yet, by the time it was totally dark, there were only two boats on the water. Everyone else had quit!

It wasn't long before one of my guide clients made a comment that "It looked like we had missed the action and we might as well head in." My response was simply, "It isn't time yet." I pointed out that they could expect some action shortly, just around the time the moon, which was already low, would set. Just as the moon dropped below the trees I positioned the boat so we could cast toward a small patch of weeds where the submerged bar broke into deep water. Almost as if on cue, one of the guys had a strike on his Hawg Wobbler. That strike resulted in him catching his largest Musky, a beautiful 51-incher.

On many lakes and flowages this is a common scenario, not necessarily the catching of a 51-inch Musky, but the fact that nearly everyone is off the water just before the fishing gets really good.

By now, some of you may be thinking, here we go again, another night fishing article. Yes it is, but this time covering dark-water flowages and learning to recognize windows of opportunity for big fish after dark.

While in recent years much has been written on night fishing, there are many anglers who believe dark water flowages just do not produce well after dark. This is just not the case! Many of the same effects that high boat traffic and fishing pressure have on clear water lakes also occur on stained water flowages. It's just that as the water clarity decreases, you have to fish a little differently to consistently score on Musky. When it comes to night fishing stained water, I believe choosing your spots, lure selection and how you work that spot becomes even more important.

SOUND IS IMPORTANT

Musky are sight feeders and on clear water, where visibility is high, they still rely heavily on sight to hunt down and strike prey. However, as water clarity decreases, even during the daylight, sound becomes increasingly more important for Musky to be able to locate prey. How does this affect night fishing? Simply put, a Musky can't strike your lure if he can’t find it or can't respond to it.

Here are a few things that can help you be assured of putting your bait in front of more Musky on dark water after dark.

First, start by choosing your night spots carefully and then trying to narrow them down to a small area where you have higher odds of contacting fish. While many of the same areas you fish during daytime hours will be good after dark, I feel that the Musky hold tighter to specific spots on structure and move less.

Typically, on many flowages, some of the best, and often popular, Musky spots are located adjacent to deep water in the original river channels and lake basins. Along with these popular spots, don't overlook small "knobber" spots either. While you will find many bars, points and shorelines adjacent to this deep water that produce fish, some of the best big fish spots will often be near large, open areas of deep water. Once you find some of these potential big fish spots look for small points, fingers, or troughs on that spot protruding into deep water.

If these have cover like small patches of Musky cabbage or stumps, they can be good both day and night. On larger weed beds, points and inside turns in the weeds are the key areas. Just try to narrow your spots down to as small of an area as possible.

When working these areas after dark, I prefer to take much the same approach that I would hunting for a trophy whitetail buck. First, try to approach the hotspots as quietly as possible. In stained water, Musky often will move very shallow after dark, and because they rely heavily on sound to feed, they may be more aware of noises. Secondly, work the area slowly and thoroughly - remember in the darker water it may be harder for a Musky to home-in on your lure and strike. The darker the water or night, the more important it is to either put your bait on the fish or at least give them time to respond. In dark water, taking the run and gun approach can limit the number of Musky you catch.

As for which lures produce best after dark, my choices would be slow, wobbling-type top water lures, bucktails and shallow-running crank baits. The important thing here is to choose lures that can be worked slowly in a straight line. and also make some norse. The key here is SOME NOISE, but don't overdo it. You just need enough sound to provide something for the fish to home-in on.

TROPHY PATTERN

For several years now, the pattern that produced the 51-incher I mentioned earlier has been a consistent one. It has produced a number of big fish for me, including several over 50 inches during the months of August and September. It involves moon times as an important ingredient. Another crucial element is periods of bluebird skies and stable weather. It seems when you get a stretch of those clear days when fishing is tough during the day, often the evenings produce the best action. However, when these conditions exist and the moonrise or set times coincide closely with sundown: often the best action takes place after sundown.

For example, if the moon sets an hour after the sunsets, the action will often occur both at sunset and moonset. While both times can be productive, the later usually is the most intense and consistently produces the biggest fish.

This summer, if the fishing gets tough on your favorite flowage, don't pack it in when the sun goes down. Simply narrow yours spots down to a few key areas, pay attention to details, like the weather and moon times, and above all, slow down. Just enjoy one of the best times to be on the lake - you need not get intense until the Musky action does.